I am grateful to the practice of yoga for my...
Heightened Creativity. One of the fundamental truths of yoga is that it makes the practitioner a better human being - bolstering the beautiful and practical human qualities, while suppressing the less-virtuous and dis-eased aspects of our natures. This is a huge claim which I hope to support more thoroughly as this website moves forward, but I’ll just keep this particular post constrained to how yoga helped me to develop just one of our essential (and exciting) human qualities – creativity.
Humans make art of all kinds. They create. On one end of the spectrum, some artists work night and day honing their craft, churning out piece after beautiful piece to the point that their art becomes a verb – something that they do. On the other end of the spectrum, some might choose to think that art is only a noun – an object on the wall or on the pedestal to be described, critiqued, celebrated, or just ignored. Those dwelling on this side of the spectrum have tacitly renounced their human ability to create art - thinking it the duty, talent, or jurisdiction of others.
Before I had tried yoga for the first time at age 29, I hadn’t created very much outside of what I was compelled to in school. The only thing I recall creating under my own volition and intention - was a poem for my wife (at the time) for our 3-year anniversary while I was on deployment in Bosnia. Apart from that, my creative landscape was barren. I honestly believed that art was something other people did. Growing up, my family wasn’t the artsy-fartsy type, and the extent of fine art expression during my 8-year stint in the Marines was even more scant. This makes sense. An organizational culture that glorifies conformity, standardization, obedience, destruction, and the warrior ethos is not going to be the most fertile ground for creativity to sprout, let alone blossom. Truth be told, the military experience does make way for some unique forms of artistic expression. Examples include battle scene paintings cast over some majestic (or ominous) landscape, and a well-executed John Philip Sousa piece by the Marine Corps Band, or this recent drum line battle between the Marines of III MEF and the South Korean Army.
Back to my story....
Enter yoga. After setting foot on my mat for the first time 7 years ago, I’ve since dabbled in oil and acrylic painting, narrative collage, singing, dancing, percussion, strumming and picking strings, photography, videography, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Besides that, there are still more mediums, instruments, and forms of expression I’d like to explore someday. Now I’m not claiming that I’m good or accomplished at any of these things, but the fact is that after incorporating yoga into my routine, I began to develop an unsuppressable urge to create.
"In any given yoga session, you're encouraged to focus, to feel, to balance, to relax, to move mindfully, to meet challenge with grace. These are all great exercises for the brain."
Now I don’t want to find myself guilty of the "false cause" logical fallacy here where I may wrongly attribute a cause (yoga) for an observed effect (heightened creativity). It is possible that my creative instincts could have come about on their own even without my ever doing a single yoga pose. There were certainly other factors (other people!) that influenced and encouraged me to create after completing my term in the military. But my yoga practice was a profound catalyst, and here’s why. In the most basic sense, creativity originates in the brain, and yoga is good for the brain. In any given yoga session, you're encouraged to focus, to feel, to balance, to relax, to move mindfully, to meet challenge, success, and failure with grace. These are all great exercises for the brain bringing with it a more healthy, active, and focused brain. This brain, bolstered by yoga, can then become a more optimal environment for creativity to sprout, grow, bare fruit, and eventually, seed.
"In many different ways, yoga charms the more aggressive among us to relax, and prepares and encourages those that are more lethargic in their constitution to engage."
In a subtler sense, a consistent (but varied) yoga practice, allows one to cultivate psychological androgyny. One of yoga's many definitions connotes a union of the masculine and the feminine, a merger if you will, of the finer and more humane elements of the male and female archetypes. When we step on our yoga mat for the first time, we each have a wide variety of masculine and feminine traits and characteristics - some overt, others covert. Some may be conspicuously masculine, others more feminine, and many with a blending of both. In many different ways, yoga charms the more aggressive among us to relax, and prepares and encourages those that are more lethargic in constitution to engage. As we continue to consciously and subconsciously cultivate the qualities we lack, while further strengthening our finer qualities, we bring greater balance to the left and right hemispheres of our brain. The result is that the masculine and feminine aspects of our nature begin to move toward greater equilibrium. The left and right hemispheres of our brain begin to communicate more effectively. Our timidity and lethargy give way to courage and strength, while our fears, anxieties, and aggressive qualities are soothed and pacified. These subtle but profound neurophysiological changes make our minds more fertile for creative impulses to be channeled, cultivated, and eventually expressed.
A more creative life has given me many moments of pure joy and it is my belief that those who exercise their right to create, no matter their abilities or talents, are able to live a more complete, well-rounded, balanced - and more HUMAN life.
Yoga Gratitude Continued...
#2 - Dietary Changes
#4 - A Strong Heart
#5 - Emotional Stability